Month: July 2018 (Page 1 of 2)

Rainy Daze – Ambient Mix

Here’s a little dark ambient blended with some lighter ambient tracks to make the perfect atmosphere for a rainy summer afternoon. Inspired by the new Mount Shrine album, I was looking for something that would keep that sort of vibe going. Tape loop distortion, glitchy ambience and lush field-recordings come together for a melancholic yet serene experience. Skeldos, Taphephobia and Leila Abdul-Rauf all feature some minimal vocal elements for added flavor.
Almost 2-hour seamless mix by Michael Barnett
Enjoy!

Playlist:

01. 0:00:00 Mount Shrine – Lifeless Indoors
02. 0:12:40 Dead Melodies – Remnants of the Missing
03. 0:17:50 Teahouse Radio – Death would find my halls and flood them
04. 0:21:30 Skeldos – Ilgės
05. 0:38:05 Taphephobia – Thunder Over The Boardwalk
06. 0:44:05 Leila Abdul-Rauf – Light Rising
07. 0:48:15 Moss Covered Technology – Sea #4
08. 0:58:30 protoU – Falling Home
09. 1:04:40 The Prairie Lines – Stay Elegant Lose Your Mind
10. 1:09:10 Vortex – A New World
11. 1:12:10 Kloob – Magic Tea Fields
12. 1:18:30 Alphaxone – Environment
13. 1:24:05 Foresteppe – s04e08
14. 1:31:20 Pool of Light – Dim
15. 1:33:40 Halftribe – Still
16. 1:36:45 Bonini Bulga – By a higher thought

Taphephobia – Ghostwood – Review

Artist: Taphephobia
Album: Ghostwood
Release date: 10 April 2018
Label: Cyclic Law

Tracklist:
01. Ghostwood
02. Watching the Storm Crows
03. Transformed Through Alienation
04. Ghost of Him
05. Hospital Ward
06. Unwanted Visitors
07. Thunder Over The Boardwalk
08. The Other World Doesn’t Exist – Part 1
09. A Bitter Alternative
10. Fragility, Secrets and Revelations

Ghostwood is the 7th full length solo release from Taphephobia, the one man dark ambient project out of Trondheim, Norway, created by Ketil Søraker. Søraker has been creating music as Taphephobia since around 2004, after he split from Northaunt. To this day, Ketil Søraker and Hærleif Langås are still friends and worked together on a project in 2009, entitled Mulm, along with fellow Norwegian Avsky. Langås has also contributed album art for several Taphephobia releases. In other noteworthy news, concurrent with the release of Ghostwood, Taphephobia released a split, also through Cyclic Law, with Kave, a dark ambient project by Bram Gollin out of the Netherlands. (Read our review of that split here.) Yet another recent release by Taphephobia worth mention is the re-issue of his long sold-out debut House of Memories, which found its new home on Reverse Alignment. So, it’s quite obvious that Ketil Søraker has been staying very busy recently.

Ketil Søraker said in a recent interview on Terra Relicta that he’s been working on this new release Ghostwood from 2012-2015. So, it should be immediately obvious that this gentleman is not one to hastily toss any half-baked idea onto Bandcamp, saturating his discography with filler. Instead, Søraker puts quality over quantity and makes sure that each Taphephobia release we hear will be something special. Something to treasure for years to come.

Followers of previous works by Taphephobia should, by this point, expect an album that is heavily focused on the use of guitar to create these droning soundscapes. While Ghostwood holds to that formula, and even increases on it in ways, there is a new element here in his use of flute. Adding these processed flute sections to the release gives it a bit more natural vibe, the wind instrument adding a nice complexity to the usual string based arrangements. It also helps add to the theme, as some of these flute sections can remind the listener of birds chirping, deep in this lonely forest.

There are sections with more synthetic sounding dark ambient elements. But several tracks on Ghostwood take Søraker’s use of guitar to a bold new level. We can most notably hear this element on “Transformed Through Alienation” which allows a clean guitar sound to rest atop the droning elements which built the foundation of the track. These slowly strummed guitar chords add wonderfully to the elements of sadness and solitude, which are always so prevalent in Taphephobia. Though it might also be mentioned that this clean guitar-work could have a potential negative, as I’ve found it can be a bit jarring if I’m falling asleep with Ghostwood playing. This is, however, a minor issue for me, as I don’t expect any dark ambient artist to create an album with a constant focus on keeping it “slumber-friendly”, unless a sleep-themed album is the primary goal.

Another track of particular note is “Hospital Ward”, which many have pointed out has a more positive tone than the majority of Søraker’s previous work. The clean and clear guitar sounds, mentioned above, are also present on this one. The chord progressions used, as well as the sort of higher-pitched and faster-paced backing drones give the track an undeniable sense of light and hope. But, it doesn’t come close to pushing into “happy” territory, there is still plenty of melancholia drenching every second of Ghostwood.

Søraker’s voice is used sparingly but is certainly noticeable throughout Ghostwood. We hear him softly speaking various phrases through “Unwanted Visitors”. “Thunder Over The Boardwalk” might be my favorite track on the album. We have Søraker singing here, in a half-whisper, like we’ve heard occasionally throughout his career. This track seems to sort of pull together all the great elements of Ghostwood. As mentioned, the vocals are present, and they are one of the most successful uses of vocals in Taphephobia I’ve heard to-date. But there is also a very clear guitar element present. These two elements blend beautifully atop the serene-yet-melancholic droning undercurrents. One can almost feel themselves on a lazy afternoon stroll, alone, down some long-forgotten boardwalk, watching as the clouds slowly condense and darken, preparing for a violent storm.

Ghostwood is, to me, the full embodiment of Ketil Søraker’s vision of Taphephobia. What started as him looking for his own sound, with House of Memories, has slowly progressed into what is now referred to as “the Taphephobia sound” describing his combination of synthetic and guitar drone, matched with sparse, somber vocals, and a deep, sometimes overwhelming, sense of melancholia. Taphephobia should be one of the leading dark ambient artists for listeners looking for active yet peaceful dark soundscapes. The guitar and vocal elements make for a nice familiarity factor for those less versed in the styles of dark ambient. Creating an album which is inviting to the newly initiated, but also solid enough to attract praise from the most die-hard genre fans is a feat worth congratulating. With all this said, I would recommend Ghostwood to dark ambient fans, old and new, that find more active, yet still relatively reserved forms of dark ambient to their liking. This one should be considered a milestone in the career of Taphephobia, and an indicator that Søraker still has plenty of new ideas to share with the world.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Mount Shrine – Winter Restlessness – Review

Artist: Mount Shrine
Album: Winter Restlessness
Release date: 24 July 2018
Label: Cryo Chamber

Mount Shrine is a dark(ish) ambient project from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. From the tidbits of info I’ve gathered, they seem to be one of the younger artists to join the Cryo Chamber label. While Mount Shrine has only been creating music under this moniker for several years, they seem to have an impressive mastery of the more field recording driven side of the dark ambient genre. Many previous Mount Shrine releases contain long tracks, some reaching 15+ minutes. With the majority of the tracks on Winter Restlessness following this longer format it is possible for the sounds to take the listener on deep journeys into their subconscious. It can be perfect meditation, reading, and sleep music because of its slowly evolving elements, peaceful rain field recordings and just enough additional sounds (often more field recordings, but also musical elements too) to keep the soundscapes interesting and engaging.

We can hear Mount Shrine honing their sound on previous releases like Forbidden Temple. But, it is worth mentioning that Mount Shrine has said on their social media that Winter Restlessness should be considered their official debut. So, I guess we can consider all these older releases to be demos and preparation for the project’s real introduction to the world. While they obviously aren’t as polished as a Cryo Chamber release, they are definitely interesting and deserving of a listen if you find Winter Restlessness so good that you must have more.

There are a few releases on Cryo Chamber which could be reasonably compared to Winter Restlessness. The first that came to my mind was SiJ & Textere OrisReflections Under The Sky. Though after a good many replays of Winter Restlessness, I’m finding the theme here to be better represented, personally. Another comparison that came to mind was EnmartaThe Hermit, though only in theme, as Enmarta allows his viola to add a very specific sort of sound to his tracks, a highly active style of sound in comparison to the subtleties of Mount Shrine.

The subtleties are certainly the most appealing elements of this sound. Mount Shrine makes music which is truly perfect for augmenting reality. It is never aggressive in its delivery. Sounds of a staticy radio transmitting unintelligible voices could be jarring to the experience, but they melt beautifully into the tapestry of Winter Restlessness, sometimes only even recognizable through headphones with added attention. This leads to one of my favorite claims to make about a dark ambient album, and one I make often in the releases I selectively choose to cover: Winter Restlessness is a perfect release for active or passive listening. In the background, the slowly evolving drones, rains and transmissions all come together forming a wonderfully complex texture, which never becomes a distraction from deep thought. In an active listening session listeners can begin to take note of all the varied field recordings, which do so much in creating the cinematic experience. This formula is the perfect dichotomy for a sleep album as well. The listener can find enough activity to keep their mind from wandering into territory which could be detrimental to the onset of sleep. However, once the darkness takes hold, one can gently drift off, never being abruptly pulled back to reality. Even at quite high volumes, I’ve personally been able to fall asleep with Winter Restlessness on repeat and was never once awakened before the morning.

The subtleties as well as the theme make Winter Restlessness a particularly potent tool for aiding meditation. For all the reasons stated above in regards to sleep, using Winter Restlessness for meditation is particularly convenient. As a whole, the album is incredibly relaxing and conducive to focus. But the story isn’t all positive, nor are the soundscapes. While the protagonist sits full lotus inside their shrine, the scent of sandalwood wafting passed their nose, they are at once in the most beautiful place on Earth, in tune with nature, but also totally disconnected from the usual reality of daily human contact. This sort of separation can form a sense of a serene contentment, but also the ugly head of loneliness constantly leers from the shadows, always attempting to pull the meditator into a dark void. This darker side to the album presents itself most noticeably in the use of drones. While the gentle texture of a million raindrops falling can be incredibly relaxing, inducing a sense of serenity, the drones can often move into the darker territory. This is not so much a malign or violent darkness. Instead, it is more akin to the restlessness one finds close to the end of a mediation session. When you know the timer or Tibetan singing bowl is just about to chime, but doesn’t for minute after yet another minute. The serenity really never leaves, but the restlessness can become almost overwhelming at times. But of course, wrestling these emotions/urges is what makes meditation such a powerful tool for mental wellness.

From a technical standpoint this is one glorious release. Every element of Winter Restlessness seems to be perfectly honed. Painstaking attention to detail makes every rain drop, every staticy transmission, every evolving drone as crisp and pristine as one could imagine. Reading a post on the personal social media of the man behind this album, a quote worth mentioning is “This album was produced through February-June this year, with me and Simon working A LOT together giving the final touches on it.” Knowing that Simon Heath of Atrium Carceri/Sabled Sun had some direct input on this release (outside his usual mastering role), whether that was simply through advice or through hands-on manipulation doesn’t necessarily seem relevant to me. The important part is pointing out this close relationship and familial setting cultivated by Cryo Chamber. One could argue that the added input takes away from our understanding of Mount Shrine, but I find this unnecessarily pessimistic. When talented musicians are in contact with one another, and one has well over a decade of intense personal experience within the given genre, it seems like a win/win for the audience. We are sure to get the absolute best version of an album in the end. Improvement is improvement, no matter how achieved, and the final product should always be the most important factor.

I would highly recommend Winter Restlessness to fans of a more laid-back dark ambient. The drones and field recordings are used in almost equal proportions throughout the album, so I could see fans of both or either of these elements to find something they love here. Mount Shrine appears to be a young musician with an abundance of talent and creativity. I will be very pleased to see his relationship with Cryo Chamber continue, and his delves into serene environments expand, furthering the concept of Winter Restlessness, or dropping us into a totally new setting.

Written by: Michael Barnett

The Inner Sanctum – A Dark Ambient Vlog: Episode 4

Joseph Mlodik, of the dark ambient project Noctilucant, is back with the fourth episode of his dark ambient vlog, The Inner Sanctum. On this episode Joseph speaks about dark ambient projects Svartsinn and Infinexhuma along with some other projects which we would call “On the Periphery” here. As usual, it’s great to hear the thoughts of a long time dark ambient fan, one with an inner perspective as well, since he also releases music within the genre. We’re proud to continue sharing his vlog episodes here and we hope you are enjoying them!

Michael Barnett

Episode 4 of The Inner Sanctum has arrived! This time around I talk about a dark ambient classic from Svartsinn, and then diverge a bit and talk about some more experimental electronic, noise and even dungeon synth related releases, before jumping back to form with a relatively new and exciting pure dark ambient release. Enjoy the darkness!

Joseph Mlodik

Episode Chapters:
Intro 00:00
Svartsinn 01:23
Nothing 10:42
Wilt 18:18
Arvo Zylo 22:36
Intermission 26:30
Infernum 27:21
Infinexhuma 33:29
Outro/End Credits 42:43

Links To Featured Artists:

Svartsinn:
svartsinn.bandcamp.com

Nothing:
jwalton.bandcamp.com

Wilt:
wilt314.bandcamp.com

Arvo Zylo / No Part of it Records:
nopartofit.bandcamp.com

Infernum:
infernumds.bandcamp.com

Infinexhuma:
infinexhuma.bandcamp.com

Previous Episodes of The Inner Sanctum

Episode: 1, 2, 3

Joseph Mlodik – Vlogger

Name: Joseph Mlodik
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Languages: English
Contact: therealnoctilucant@gmail.com
Social Media Profiles:
https://www.facebook.com/joseph.mlodik
Outside projects:
Noctilucant: https://noctilucant.bandcamp.com
Kholdstare Design: https://kholdstare.weebly.com

 

Teahouse Radio – Her Quiet Garden – Review

Artist: Teahouse Radio
Album: Her Quiet Garden
Release date: 24 April 2018
Label: Hypnagoga Press

Tracklist:
01. A low-toned meadow
02. Snow falling on black water
03. Death would find my halls and flood them
04. Unable
05. Urn
06. Dreaming splendid spaces
07. If I were a garden
08. Underwater sleep orchestra
09. Her tiny ears and paws
10. Resembling a ruin
11. The elsewhere sleep

Read our recent interview with Teahouse Radio/Hypnagoga Press.

Teahouse Radio is the latest project by Pär Boström. Boström has seen a veritable whirlwind of creativity over the last few years. As far as the quality of this burst of creativity is concerned, the music speaks for itself each and every time. We’ve seen new Kammarheit and Cities Last Broadcast since 2015, both albums well worth the considerable wait since their predecessors. But the most interesting aspect of Boström’s “reawakening” has been in the new projects he’s launched.

We’ve now seen the quality-over-quantity ideology of his young label Hypnagoga Press, with beautifully crafted releases by Hymnambulae (with sister, Åsa), Altarmang (with Kenneth Hansson), and Bonini Bulga. But, this latest release must be the most ambitious of Pär Boström’s attempts (successful attempts I might add!) to create something that is both deeply personal as well as novel to the dark ambient community. From cover-art to acoustic instrument choices to general atmosphere, Teahouse Radio is indeed a quite interesting and unique release.

This isn’t a cinematic dark ambient release in the same sense as we would hear from Cryo Chamber, (ex. Cities Last BroadcastThe Humming Tapes). Instead, Her Quiet Garden hones in on atmospherics and emotion. There are massive amounts of cathartic and lethargic emotion flowing through every moment of Her Quiet Garden. The music itself has a sort of lazy summer afternoon vibe. It begs to be heard while reading a book beneath the shade of an old gnarled tree, or while lying in bed on a hot summer night, too close to sleep to be productive, but too far to be fully relaxed. Tracks like “Death would find my halls and flood them” and “Snow falling on black water” have an incredibly sluggish and depressive feel.

While the album is undoubtedly steeped in lethargy and a generalized sense of depression, there are absolutely beautiful moments shimmering through the haze. “Unable” is a nice combination of the two sides co-mingling. The underlying drone/atmospherics are quite dark, giving a very ominous vibe to the track. But the piano section which sort of sits atop the track is more light-hearted. The two sides combine giving us a sense of that respite from depression, those beautiful moments between memories of loss, and yet even in those moments, we still cling to the worst, even if only subconsciously.

Relaxing and positive elements show through occasionally on Her Quiet Garden. On “Dreaming splendid spaces”, Boström incorporates several light-hearted piano elements giving the track a very nice warm feeling. Boström hums along in the background, quietly and effortlessly fading into the mix. This all serves as a respite from the otherwise bleak nature of Her Quiet Garden. But this is the point. The imagined garden in Boström’s vision is a place to visit those lost loved ones which are still held so dear. Deeply negative emotions are sure to surface, but memories of happiness and contentment are also sure to help exert a balance, and maybe find a personal understanding, a path to move forward.

Her Quiet Garden is not about finding an escape from one’s sorrow, loss, depression. It is about seeing it as it is, all the hard saddening memories combined with all those wonderful days and nights spent in a youthfully ignorant contentment. The loss of any true loved one, or even a past home or acquaintances, all come with their share of good and bad. Her Quiet Garden lets all these emotions melt into one another, giving listeners a deeply moving album, which will likely make a much greater personal connection with each listener than the majority of the music coming out of the post-industrial scene. This is what has kept listeners returning to Boström’s music over the years; his ability to tap directly into the mind of the listener, playing our memories and emotions like yet another instrument in his collection.

Her Quiet Garden was release on Hypnagoga Press in a CD edition of 100 copies (only about a dozen remain). The album is also, of course, available online. You’ll find in the album’s artwork some very unique elements. Boström used a very different technique in it’s creation, which can be seen and explained in better detail through the videos he’s posted online about the process. There has been talk of Her Quiet Garden being the best release yet by Pär Boström. I would rather not make that judgment, I love far too much of his previous work to downgrade its importance in any way. But, with that said, this is one incredibly powerful release, from the technical side as well as the emotional. It also doesn’t hurt, on the technical side, that Simon Heath (Atrium Carceri, Cryo Chamber) did the final editing and mastering of the release.

I would highly recommend Her Quiet Garden to anyone that loves to hear various instruments boldly blended with dark ambient elements. But, also to anyone needing a helping hand in coping with loss. You are likely to find as much solace in these songs as Boström did. So get some headphones and take this album with you to your own quiet garden, where ever it may lie.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Kintaan – Exclusive Track Premiere

We are very pleased to premiere a brand new Kintaan track from their upcoming album on Annihilvs. I should immediately state that this is definitely not “dark ambient”. Annihilvs has been releasing music, for years now, which falls outside the boundaries of genre norms. You will find in Kintaan, music which is basically impossible to categorize. There are many elements of many different genres present here, and yet no one genre could be said to define the music. So in keeping with our site’s ambitions to step outside our norms when warranted, Kintaan seems like a perfect act to share as our first “on the periphery” premiere. We hope you’ll enjoy this intriguing oddity.

Michael Barnett

Kintaan – “Chromatic Tumor”

Annihilvs says of the new release:

Extradimensional post-music trio Kintaan have been astonishing audiences up and down the eastern seaboard for well-nigh a decade. During that time, their untitled debut album, recorded behind a block of dilapidated warehouses by an overgrown rail line littered with trash, has been coming together at a glacial pace.

Like so many artists in our roster, Kintaan hails from Providence, a place established as a haven for those “distressed of conscience,” and the city of H.P. Lovecraft. Cold, wet, and grey New England, where horrible nightmares have gripped and deformed minds for centuries. This is where witches burned, where stakes were driven through lifeless bodies, where America’s industrial revolution began, as human ambition poisoned the fertile black soil. It is no wonder that a band that evokes such cavernous depths of nameless, formless evil would be born of one of America’s oldest and most mysterious cities.

The core unit of Bassist/vocalist Josh Yelle (LVMMVX/DHIM), drummer Eric Griehsbaer (VOSP/POOL), and electronics/synth wizard Marc Jameson (member of SKIN CRIME) constructed the album with the aid of Sean Halpin (CRAOW). The album has been mastered by Andy Grant (THE VOMIT ARSONIST), who has often been seen performing live with Kintaan since autumn of 2017.

In 2018, Annihilvs is very pleased to present this brutal slab of mutant sounds as a digipak CD-R, in conjunction with editions released by Danvers State Recordings (cassette) and Concrete Lo Fi Records (vinyl).

This release will also be available as the ‘Most Ancient’ edition, a bundle including a t-shirt, a one-sided picture disc lathe-cut 7inch single (featuring a remix by Theologian), and a copy of the digipak CD-R.

The new album by Kintaan can be pre-ordered here.

Links:
Kintaan: Facebook
Annihilvs: Facebook, Bandcamp

 

Relevant Event This Evening!!!!

This evening DJ Le Bourreau (Theologian) will be keeping the Machines With Magnets establishment alive between some very interesting acts which include:

– live sets by –
Snowbeasts
COMPACTOR [NYC]
DOLCE [NOLA]
STRAP-ON RITUAL
DBL HOODS (Mark Jameson of Skin Crime)
DHIM (members of LVMMVX + The Vomit Arsonist)

DJ sets by Le Bourreau (Theologian)
8PM / $8 Entry

Machines With Magnets
400 Main St, Pawtucket, Rhode Island 02860

Skeldos – Ilgės – Review

Artist: Skeldos
Album: Ilgės
Release date: 21 June 2018
Label: Self-released

Tracklist:
01. melas
02. ilgės

Skeldos is an “anxious electronic, industrial, ambient” project by Vytenis Eitminavičius of Lithuania. Ilgės is his third full length solo release. While his debut album, Įspaudai, was released on the Lithuanian label Terror, his last two solo releases, as well as his brilliant collaboration, Aviliai with fellow Lithuanian ambient/drone artist Daina Dieva, have all been independently released.

Skeldos focuses on a form of drone/dark ambient which at times can be incredibly relaxing and calm. But it can move into varied territories with little awareness from the listener. The sounds seem to morph effortlessly. While the music itself can sound a good bit different at times, the approach to these soundscapes seems quite reminiscent of Kammarheit, or some amalgamation of Kammarheit and Taphephobia, maybe. Or at their harshest of times (not present on this album) can come into territory more aligned with artists like Jarl or Yen Pox, creating textures which can seem chaotic and over-bearing, but are still able to totally draw the listener into their coils, taking us on a mental voyage to destinations unknown. An interesting caveat here is that it would appear Skeldos creates all his “drones” with real acoustic instruments, namely on this album: accordion, Lithuanian zither and guitar.

The first track on Ilgės, “melas”, falls somewhere in the middle of Skeldos‘ range of soundscapes. There is a slight harshness, but it is predominately a sort of trance-inducing dronescape, which has little variation, and yet has managed to keep my full attention over many, many replays. I could maybe lightly compare the style to something more reserved on Aural Hypnox. The second track, “ilgės”, takes us into calmer, more melancholic territory. The backing dronework has a sort of celestial/shimmering/peaceful quality to it, which is accentuated by its solitude within the track. As listeners begin to sink into this trance, Skeldos introduces, for the first time on Ilgės, what I think is his most defining characteristic. His vocals. Skeldos has a very relaxing mid-deep ranged vocal quality. His vocals sound as if they are a lullaby, cutting through the darkness of night, in a sort of singing whisper. As we reach the end of the track, the energy of the soundscapes, as well as Skeldos‘ vocals, pick up momentum for a more emotional finale.

The inspiration for this album was taken from the poem “melas” or “A Lie” by Lithuanian writer Antanas Škėma. In the physical cassette release of Ilgės, Skeldos features the poem in its original Lithuanian as well as in English translation. This poem is included on a beautiful tan paper adorned with artwork similar to that of the album cover. The ART edition (25 of the 100 copies) goes a step further, stitching this paper directly into the handcrafted cassette case, giving it a very personal ‘do-it-yourself’ sort of feel. Though I should say the end result, concerning the cases, looks like quite professional work. The cassette itself is blank aside from a white “I” or “II” painted in its center, which isn’t  “professional”, but avoids my greatest problem with unlabeled cassettes, which side is which? Also, the hand-painted numerals further add to the DIY aesthetic. In the end, I’d say this is one of the best looking handcrafted cassette releases I’ve seen so far. Proof that  overall quality doesn’t need to be sacrificed on account of the hand-crafted nature.

Skeldos is a little known artist, under-recognized much more so than under-rated, that should be seeing a good bit more attention, in my humble opinion. Since discovering his music recently, I’ve been returning to it very often, especially in that last hour before sleep, most frequently after the lights are out for the evening. Skeldos‘ style of drone-work along with his vocal contributions make for a wonderfully peaceful, if thoroughly melancholic, experience. I would highly recommend Ilgės to anyone that loves the calmer more introspective forms of dark ambient. Ilgės is certainly on par with many of the genre’s renowned artists.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Hezaliel – Paradise Lost – Review

Artist: Hezaliel
Album: Paradise Lost
Release date: 5 April 2018
Label: Eighth Tower Records

Tracklist:
01. The Pit of Hell
02. Altar of Demons
03. They Darkned the Land of Nile
04. Fallen Angels in a Distant Earth
05. The Snake’s Deception
06. Before and After the Human
07. Reflected in a Mirror of Sins
08. Paradise Lost

This will be my second review of an Eighth Tower Records studio album, the first being the latest Sonologyst offering Apocalypse (read the review here). Eighth Tower Records is a sub-label of the Unexplained Sounds Group, both run by Raffaele Pazzella (read our interview here). Eighth Tower focuses more on dark ambient leaning releases, and less on the experimental nature of USG. Their slogan being, “Superspectrum sounds from Ultraterrestrial dimensions.” Paradise Lost is the sixth proper full length release, but there are also a number of compilations (one reviewed here), which contain a combination of exclusive and previously released tracks, each focusing on a specific theme.

“I made him just and right, sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost

Hezaliel is a project out of Belgium by Steve Fabry, who is also known for his work in metal projects The Nightstalker and Sercati. His Hezaliel music, in general, could be described as a sort of tasteful horror ambient. Meaning there is darkness abound in this release, but it never pushes that feeling too far, never taking us into the more absurd territory of some other horror ambient albums.

Our first encounter with the theme comes in the cover art, which is a beautiful 1866 engraving done by Paul Gustave Doré for John Milton‘s epic poem Paradise Lost, which was first published in 1667. The poem, and so too the album, focus on the biblical story of the fall of man, namely Satan’s deceit of Adam and Eve, resulting in the end of paradise. So, while I’ve stated that this is a sort of horror ambient album, the themes are of a religious nature. But, with a theme such as the fall of paradise the religious and horrifying can come together quite easily.

The first half of the album focuses on Satan and the other rebel fallen angels, in their underworld. Thus the music is given liberty to be incredibly dark, as the soundscapes are basically recreating hell itself. Though, within this darkness there are moments of almost a dark bliss, such as on “Fallen Angels in a Distant Earth”, which includes what sounds to be field recordings of crashing waves, as if we are following the fallen angels on a walk along a prehistoric coastline.

Paul Gustave Doré – Engraving from Paradise Lost

The second half takes on more an air of sadness and regret. There are more likely to be fleeting melodies emerging from the background. The dense soundscapes give way to more peaceful qualities, as the storyline is generally pulling us toward a sad conclusion, which will play out over following millennia.

Hezaliel has crafted an album, in Paradise Lost, which is first and foremost an enjoyable listen. It has that perfect balance of active and passive qualities, giving it a higher level of replayability over an extended period of time. His techniques seem to have improved since his debut, In The World of the Anesthetist which came out on Kalpamantra in early 2017. Following the narrative of a tried and true classic, like Paradise Lost by John Milton, gives Hezaliel room to build a story with more details that are able to be understood immediately by the average listener.

Paradise Lost is one of my favorite yet on Eighth Tower Records. Hezaliel has shown that he is up to the task of creating dark ambient albums with depth and detail. The theme for this one seemed quite appropriate for a dark ambient album, and it also fit very nicely with the general aesthetic of Eighth Tower Records, keeping that focus on the “ultra-terrestrial” intact. I would recommend Paradise Lost to those that prefer there dark ambient to be a bit more active, but never abrupt or jarring. It makes for a nice reading companion, but it is also able to keep your attention during isolated listening sessions in a dark room with headphones.  With a heavy focus on theme and an ability to show reservation when creating such dark soundscapes, Hezaliel will certainly be an artist to watch over the coming years.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Atrox Pestis – Hewn by the Hands… – Review

Artist: Atrox Pestis
Album: Hewn by the Hands of the Damned
Release date: 20 January 2018
Label: Chryptus Records

Tracklist:
01. Hewn by the Hands of the Damned
02. With Seven Tongues, He Spoke
03. Choking on the Waters of the Firmament
04. They Will Reach from the Heavens (Cut off their hands)

Atrox Pestis is a new project by Grant Richardson. Richardson has been a powerful player in the death industrial scene as his main project, Gnawed. Since 2009, Richardson has been scavenging the depths of the Minneapolis underworld. Searching the dank tunnels beneath this city, Richardson found the voice for his music. Metal clanging and grinding, washes of reverberated drone, vocals distorted beyond recognition, these are the offspring of Gnawed.

Atrox Pestis gives Richardson’s immersion in post-industrial music a new outlet. For fans of Gnawed, you will find much of that same industrial/mechanical darkness. But the mood and execution have both been greatly subdued, in comparison to Gnawed. This is a proper dark ambient release. Devoid of any percussion or distorted vocals (though it does include some Gregorian style chants), Richardson focuses on a more introspective atmosphere. Where Gnawed shows the destruction of the world, Atrox Pestis shows the destruction of the mind, within this doomed biosphere.

Hewn by the Hands of the Damned takes on a religious element as well as one of societal/planetary collapse. On the release’s Bandcamp page, Chryptus added several Biblical passages which are worth sharing here:

Mark 9:43
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.

Genesis 1:6
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

These passages illuminate the album’s struggle with the current standing of mankind. Questions of what is evil, what is good, who are the enemy, who are the saviours? Should we deserve to be erased from history? Should we fight to correct our trajectory? How would that look? What laws would we impose, in order to bring about vast societal/planetary changes?

Hewn by the Hands of the Damned is Atrox Pestis first full-lenghth release. But, in 2016 and 2017 they released a self-titled C40 cassette on Maniacal Hatred (Richardson’s own label), and a split with Strigae on Phage Tapes. If you enjoy Hewn by the Hands of the Damned I would highly recommend going back to these older releases. Especially the split with Strigae, a project created by Leo Brochu, owner of Chryptus Records, another very promising new dark ambient artist, which I will be planning to cover more thoroughly in the near future.

While Atrox Pestis debut is going under the radar, a young project released on a young label, there has been no shortage of praise for this release from veteran dark ambient musicians. This is always a sign of a promising new project, as so many of the veteran producers from this genre will likely have a much more critical ear than the average listener. Hewn by the Hands of the Damned is the perfect release for listeners of the older industrialized dark ambient acts such as Svartsinn, Yen Pox, and others in this vein that are able to incorporate some harsher, more metallic sounds, while simultaneously keeping the album sounding smooth and polished. While you may find little in the way of new ideas on this release, you will find a producer creating at the top of his game. Let’s hope more listeners come along for the ride, as this project is not one to be overlooked!

Review by: Michael Barnett

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